Heading into his 11th season as the University of Virginia’s men’s basketball coach, Tony Bennett, was offered a raise that he declined. He suggested the money be used instead to pay his staff more and make improvements to his program and other Virginia athletic teams.
- How can we encourage more selfless acts like Bennett’s independent of industry or profession? UVA athletics director, Carla Williams referring to Bennett’s actions, said: “that just does not happen in our industry.”
- Due to NCAA’s regulations, Bennett can only give his money back to his employer, rather than the unpaid athletes who made his success possible. Should he use his platform to advocate for a more equitable system for the benefit of players?
- What can CEOs learn from Bennett’s action on pay, especially when the CEO-to-worker pay ratio can be 300-to-1?
- “Tony’s decision — to turn down a well-deserved raise and instead invest in his players and UVA athletics more broadly — tells you everything you need to know about him as a leader and as a human being,” university president Jim Ryan said. “Tony is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, and this is just the latest example.”
- Bennett said the idea was his wife’s. “She’s always said, ‘Is there something we can do that can make a difference?’ That’s been on her heart and mind, and we’ve talked about it a lot.”
- At UVA, Bennett is known for building his program on the biblical pillars of humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness.
Virginia won its first national title last season and reached the NCAA tournament seven times since 2009-10, including each of the past six seasons.
The Cavaliers’ appearance in the Final Four was their first in 35 years, and their magical NCAA tournament run, which came 12 months after a historic first-round loss to UMBC, united alumni, fans and the Charlottesville community.
In a news release, Bennett said, “My wife Laurel and I are in a great spot, and in the past, I’ve had increases in my contract. We just feel a great peace about where we’re at, all that’s taken place, and how we feel about this athletic department and this community and this school. I love being at UVA.”
Further, “…I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much in men’s basketball, that’s my desire.”
According to the USA Today coaching database, Bennett made $4.15 million last season, which included a $1 million longevity payment due to him in March.
Fundraising is well underway on a master plan to transform the athletics precinct on North Grounds at UVA. The project’s centerpieces include a new football operations center and a new Olympics sports center. Included in the project is the Center for Citizen Leaders and Sports Ethics. The Center will include a student development program in which UVA Athletics will collaborate with the University’s academic departments to provide educational opportunities in career, leadership and personal development, and community engagement.
The Bennetts have pledged $500,000 toward a career-development program that’s been launched for current and former UVA men’s basketball players.